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Parshat Vayetzei
December 9, 2016 - 9 Kislev 5777

Shabbat Candle Lighting - by 4:35  pm
Shabbat Ends - 5:43 pm
DVAR TORAH - Thoughts from the Principal & Educational Director
At the onset of Parshat Vayetzei we encounter our forefather Yaakov fleeing from his brother Esav. Tired and distressed, Yaakov decides to stop to rest in Beit-El. It is there that he has a dream when he envisions a ladder with angels ascending and descending to and from the heavens, and he hears G-d's promise to protect him along his journey and return him safely to his homeland.  The Torah describes Yaakov's astonishment upon awakening, "Yaakov awoke from his sleep and said, 'Indeed, the L-rd is in this place, and I was unaware.'  He was frightened and said, 'How awesome is this place; this can only be a house of G-d, and this is the gate of the heavens!'" (28:16-17).

Many commentators are puzzled as to why Yaakov Avinu was seemingly so surprised  that such a vision could occur at this location. Why did Yaakov have this reaction?

The Shadal  (19th century, Italy) explains that Yaakov was critical of himself for having been distressed over his journey and that perhaps, in his distress, he cursed that site. According to the Shadal, when Yaakov was forced to lie down and sleep along the road, he felt embittered over his plight.  He resented that he had to flee from his brother and travel all the way to Charan, a journey that required him to sleep out in the open, on the ground, without proper provisions.  In his physical discomfort and emotional turmoil, the Shadal speculates that Yaakov may have been driven to wish ill will on his situation and location. However,
 after his prophetic vision Yaakov came to the startling realization that the site where he slept was in fact a blessed place.  Despite the lack of physical comfort or protection, here G-d offered him spiritual and emotional reassurance---it is here that G-d reached out to Yaakov, answered his prayers and promised him protection. 

A meaningful lesson emerges from the Shadal's understanding of these verses.  Often in life we find ourselves in situations and places which we would have much preferred to avoid, challenges and difficulties which we would ideally never wish to confront.  At times, however, we will discover, like Yaakov, that these situations are really "the house of G-d, the gates of the heavens" and they may somehow prove to be far more beneficial than we would have ever imagined.  Just as Yaakov was surprised to discover that the dusty, rocky road to Charan could become "the house of G-d," so too may we find -- in whatever unpleasant situations we are forced to confront--positive experiences that, as in the case of Yaakov, give us strength and confidence for the long journey ahead.

Shabbat Shalom!!
Rabbi Weinberg can be reached at [email protected] .

Featured Video

Do you want to win 5 tickets to Israel? 
Second prize is an iPad mini! 
 Alumni Spotlight
We recently caught up with Ariela (Fox) Elefant. We had a very interesting conversation, in which we talked
about blue to-go cups at Starbucks and how Ariela relates to one of Mike Lang's famous phrases. Enjoy the interview, and as always--send your feedback and interview suggestions to [email protected].  

Share a favorite Hillel memory or two with our readers? I have so many favorite memories from Hillel. It's hard to focus in on just one, but i'll do my best. My favorite past-time would probably have to be Purim--making the Mishe Nechnas Adar train and running around the school singing at the top of our lungs! 

Did you have a favorite teacher?  I really enjoyed them all, each for different reasons.

What was your favorite class? Rabbi Pliner's Hashkafa class. One of the main topics I remember loving was, "Why do good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people."

How did Hillel Academy prepare you for the future?  Hillel was the foundation of my life. It helped me attain a rich love for Judaism and an acceptance of diversity.  

How do you earn a living?   I currently teach In Yeshiva K'tana of Waterbury. I am a pre-1a English teacher, also known as a kindergarten English teacher. 

What's your dream job? I would love to be a public speaker--I'm working on that. To be a photo journalist was a dream as well, but I have no time for that.  I love taking black and white photos. 

What do you do in your free time? In my free time, I enjoy relaxing with friends over coffee. I love catching up with my old Hillel classmates, which I do often. I also enjoy writing.

Who is the most interesting person in your contacts?  Well there are many, but I have to say Rabbi Pesach Krohn.   I am very close to Rabbi Krohn's daughter-in-law who is a children's author, and has written many books. She put me in touch with Rabbi Krohn, and he has been helping me  write and speak about my life experiences.

Tell us about your kids.   I have five beautiful children, four boys and a princess. I have a Bar Mitzvah boy and another son becoming Bar Mitzvah after Pesach. We lived in Israel for ten years, then spent one year in Arizona, and now reside in Connecticut. I still speak Hebrew to my children.

What's the secret to parenting teens? In raising children, and teens, I think one of the most important things we have to remember is that we were entrusted by G-D to take care of them, not rule them. They too have free choice in life. We can only show by example what's good and right, but we have to remember that them being individuals and doing what they do is not always a reflection of their parents. So, we have to learn to support and respect them as well.  We aren't exactly like our parents, and we need to remember that they will flourish too as good people if we lead by example.

Have you been following the Steelers? In terms of Steelers, I have black and gold in my veins, but don't actively follow them. Pittsburgh will always be my love though.   By the way, I still wear my Hillel hoodie from high school to sleep. Once  a Hilleler always one.

Quick Pick:

Latte or black?  Latte. I'm a Starbucks fan. So much so that my Starbucks gives me free coffee.   They even colored me a blue cup when I complained that they had no blue holiday cups

Target or Marshals? Target.  I'm obsessed, it's everything under one roof. Low
 end chic, get your paper towels and ugly Chanukah sweater at the same time.

Beanie or ball cap? Beanie

Sunroof or Moon roof? Sunroof

Poodle or hotdog? Poodle

"Clear the deck, cannonball coming"  or "Get in the fast lane Grandma, the bingo game is ready to roll?"  Tough one, cannon ball.  Really I am more of a middle lane person, but you didn't give me that option. 

Dan Shaw can be reached at [email protected].
Life Hacks
Welcome to our new life hacks section!  Life hacks are easy strategies or techniques that you probably never thought of that can be used to "hack" every day problems--or  manage your time and daily activities in a more efficient way. Some hacks are so useful that they come in handy everyday, so we thought it would be fun for the Hillel family to share our favorite hacks with each other! 

Put a sticker that is cut in half in your toddler's shoes. This way they can put their shoes on the correct foot by themselves.

For last week's hack - go here -  http://bit.ly/HH_12_2_16

If you have a favorite hack you'd like to share, email [email protected].

As a culmination of our sound unit, seventh and eighth grade students created homemade instruments out of various materials. Each instrument was required to produce four different notes and have the ability to regulate volume.

The ECC playground is always a favorite meeting spot for our students. 

Rabbi Weinberg co-teachers a biology lesson in the the high school. 

Hillel Academy Alum Ilya Bratman, Hillel Director at Baruch College in NYC pictured with Hillel Academy Parent Daniel Marcus, Hillel JUC Pittsburgh Director. Bratman and Marcus met attending the Hillel International Assembly in Orlando. 

This week Morah Elaine taught about snails and slugs.  They started out by looking at snail shells. Snails can hide inside of their shells when they feel threatened. 

Last week, Morah Elaine taught toddler classes about various types of leaves. 

Morah Jessie's toddlers held a "book club" before lunch on Tuesday.  

The sixth graders made a pop-up birthday card for their teacher Ms. Letters. 

Pre-K classes join together to daven in the mornings.

Nursery makes the Torah story of Rivka and Yitzchak come alive as they celebrate with a mock wedding. The children got "dressed up", enjoyed a smorgesboard, participated in a chuppah and were very excited as they danced at the reception.
The Art Department
Brought to you by the  Joshua L. Sindler, z"l Creative Classrooms, Art and Music Endowment Program
The middle school art clubs printed their linoleum carved prints this week. The results were outstanding to say the least! 
Hillel Athletics
Mazel Tov
Susan Jablow on making a syium on Tanach! She wrote an article on it - click Tanach to read it. 
Yehudah and Aliza (Skaist) Szanzer on the birth of Eliyahu David!

Around Town

If you are interested in volunteering or know someone who might be, please contact   [email protected].

 Save the Date: The NCSY Q will be Saturday night Feb 18th 2017.  The Q is an team based, multimedia fundraiser that you don't want to miss.
Girl's Oneg:  There will not   be Girl's Oneg this Shabbos,  December 10th .  The leaders will be in Detroit at the National Leader's Convention.  See you next week!

                                          of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh
                                                               Administered by:
                                                  Jewish Family & Children's Service
               5743 Bartlett Street · Pittsburgh, PA 15217 · (412)422-5627 · Fax (412)428-8200
November 2016
Attention:  Financial Aid Offices, Guidance Counselors, and Youth Organizations
Applications for need-based college scholarships for the 2017-2018 school year are available from the Central Scholarship & Loan Referral Service (CSLRS) of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.  This program is administered by Jewish Family & Children's Service.  The funds are made available through the generosity of families who have established endowments through the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, Jewish Community Center, National Council of Jewish Women, Jewish Women International of Pittsburgh (formerly B'nai B'rith Women), The Pittsburgh Foundation, and Rodef Shalom Congregation.
All awards are distributed on the basis of demonstrated financial need .  Depending on the scholarship fund, other factors such as academic achievement, field of study, school attending, and Jewish and general community involvement will also be considered. In addition, the applicant must be Jewish, reside in Allegheny, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler or Washington County for at least two years, and need financial assistance to attend an accredited institution of higher education
We would appreciate your assistance in aiding local students by publishing an announcement about the work of the Central Scholarship committee. We are enclosing a brochure that explains our process. The 2017-2018 CSLRS on-line application is available at http://www.centralscholarship.org.  All applications are due February 9, 2017.
If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at (412) 422-5627 or e-mail me at [email protected].
Alayne Lowenberger, Director
Central Scholarship & Loan Referral Service

Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh

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Please send condolence notices to  [email protected].